Justas Furmanavicius/Petre Thomas

JUCO transfer Justas Furmanavicius is willing to bring whatever his team needs in order to win

Justas Furmanavicius may not often lead Ole Miss in scoring this season, but if all goes as planned, his influence game in and game out certainly won’t go unnoticed.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy signed Furmanavicius out of Three Rivers C.C. in the 2016 recruiting class. He envisioned a Swiss Army Knife of a basketball player — one who could bring rebounding, lane pressure, some outside shooting, on-ball defense and blocked shots.

“I think he's a guy that has to guard multiple positions,” Kennedy said. “He's got to be efficient, and that's what we've seen out of him. He's not going to be a volume guy. He's going to be a timely 3-point shooter. He's an athlete in the open floor. He's got to make plays, and then he's going to have to guard 1-4 and make solid decisions with the ball.”

The points will come, too. But Kennedy isn’t asking Furmanavicius to be the Rebels’ No. 1 option. Kennedy has Sebastian Saiz, Cullen Neal, Deandre Burnett and Rasheed Brooks, not to mention a host of secondary options in Terence Davis, Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, Marcanvis Hymon and Breein Tyree.

Sure, Furmanavicius will have his high-scoring games. But it’s in his consistency in other areas where his value lies.

“I think my role is more energy guy, rebounding, play hard,” Furmanavicius said. “For me, it’s really not about points. I just want to win and do what’s best for the team.”

“Energy,” Neal said, when asked of Furmanavicius’ role. “As you guys saw (in the exhibition win over Morehouse), he’s 6-6 or 6-7, solid and just runs around the floor and causes havoc the whole game. He always plays hard. I think energy’s his big role.”

Furmanavicius played in 31 games with 30 starts for Three Rivers last season. He averaged 12.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 16.8 minutes per game, shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 74.7 percent from the free throw line. He earned All-Region honors and helped lead his team to a 23-8 record.

He’s a departure from the usual four Kennedy has rostered the last few seasons. Tomasz Gielo was a true stretch four, while M.J. Rhett was, as Kennedy described him, a “semi-stretch” from about 16 feet.

Furmanavicius is different. Much, much different.

“The term stretch four is something that is in vogue now and everybody has a stretch four,” Kennedy said. “Really for the first time, we had one last year. Justas is going to be different because he's not going to be that volume of a 3-point guy, but his ability to dribble-drive other fours is going to be very problematic as a matchup.”

Furmanavicius is fully embracing his role, even if it means he has to often sacrifice shots. In the end, winning is all that matters. Ole Miss opens the 2016-17 season tonight at 6 p.m. against UT-Martin.

“I think a team is better when there are more guys who can score than just only one guy who scores 30 points and the other guys just a little bit,” Furmanavicius said. “I think it’s better when a team has five, six players who can score instead of just one guy.”


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